The Challenge Fund Blog

This blog is the personal opinion and perspective of Jennifer Ramsay, project manager of the Local Energy Challenge Fund.

Blog Post 2

It's been a busy few months for the Local Energy Challenge Fund, with projects from both rounds progressing well. There have certainly been plenty of challenges for the projects, with unexpected impacts from Brexit, changes in partners, with time marching on towards the tight deadlines for the Fund. There are currently 4 projects supported through round 1 of the fund, and 8 through round 2.

In November, the EASTHEAT project (supported through round 1) held a formal event with Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy. The EASTHEAT project delivered in 2015-16, using the innovative Sunamp heat batteries. This uses the same technology as you find in hand warmers - this phase change material can store heat and use it when necessary. EASTHEAT focused on sheltered and social housing, and coupled the Sunamp cells with PV generation and off-peak energy tariffs. In this way, tangible fuel savings can be passed on to those living in the homes, and the effects are being felt already, with a lot of happy residents enjoying a warmer, more affordable winter. Mr Wheelhouse visited a home in Newtongrange, in Midlothian, where PV panels have been installed on sheltered housing. 

The project is a great example of combining scientific concepts and policy, and delivering a tangible scheme helping real people in fuel poverty. 



Also based in the Lothians is the Tower Power project, again focused on supporting those in fuel poverty. The Tower Power project is working with a number of buildings in the centre of Edinburgh. The concept is simple - rather than each individual homeowner buying electricity separately, the Tower Power project will aggregate the users, and buy the energy as an industrial load. In this way, a cheaper electricty rate can be secured and the savings passed on to the individual residents. The project is also looking to include PV panels in the system, to demonstrate a viable local energy model for urban communities.

While simple in concept, the devil is in the detail, and the project is successfully working through a number of technical and logistical challenges, to come up with an exciting, practical solution which can be rolled out across Scotland. The project lead is Community Energy Scotland. 

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All projects have made great progress over the past few months, and I am really excited to see what happens next. There are already some fantastic new models for local energy being demonstrated, and I'm sure even more will emerge as we move forward.


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Blog Post 1


 The Local Energy Challenge Fund – supporting innovative local energy projects in Scotland

This is the first of my (hopefully) regular blog updates on the Local Energy Challenge Fund, which I am managing on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The Fund is, by nature, challenging - supporting cutting-edge, innovative, collaborative, inspiring energy projects with a focus on local impact.  It's been right in at the deep end for me in the past month getting stuck into the projects. We supported four projects through round one of the Challenge Fund, and I was lucky enough to visit sunny Methil in Fife not once, but twice this month.  The Levenmouth area in Fife traditionally had an economy based on heavy industries and Methil was once the largest coal port in Scotland, but since the collapse of the coal industry there has not been a clear successor in terms of industry and jobs for the region. The Levenmouth Community Energy Project goes to show just how an area can be transformed.

Building on the excellent projects in place at the Energy Park, the Levenmouth project has installed increased renewable generation, a micro-grid for local business, a hydrogen storage and refueller system, while also using a fleet of vehicles to serve local businesses.  There is even a world-first dual fuel hydrogen bin lorry. The project is in the final stages of delivery and will be a fantastic high-profile success for Fife once complete.  Methil once more! (Project partners – Bright Green Hydrogen, Fife Council, Leven Valley Development Trust, Fife College, Green Business Fife, Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, Toshiba, Community Energy Scotland)

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Through the second round of the Challenge Fund, we are supporting nine projects, and I’ve been getting to know the teams, projects and challenges over the past few weeks. I had another sunny trip to Oban to meet the ASLEE (Algal Solutions for Local Energy Economies) team and understand the project underway at the marine research centre in Dunstaffnage. This project is looking at a new business model for using intermittent renewable energy by creating high-value algae products, to help grid balancing and grid constraints.  I saw the photobioreactors used to grow the algae and learnt more about algae than I ever thought I would!

This project shows the value and innovation of the Challenge Fund, bringing together two concepts that aren’t immediately obvious partners (algae and renewable energy), hopefully producing a sustainable and viable business model for rural communities. (Project partners – Xanthella, Ardnamurchan Estates, fai, University of Stirling, sgurr energy, ALIEnergy, University of the West of Scotland, VCharge)

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And in a third sunny visit (I’m beginning to think the sun always shines on Challenge Fund projects!)  I went to beautiful Fintry to meet the SMART Fintry project team.  This project is focusing on creating a tariff for local people based on real-time loads and smart metering in the community. This project will have a high profile in the village and requires local people to understand and opt in to the scheme, to create a true local energy economy. (Project partners – Fintry Development Trust, Veitch Cooper, Good Energy, Open Utilities, Energy Assets). The Fintry project is very different to the ASLEE project in this sense, and I think this shows the breadth of possibility that ‘local energy’ offers– it could be individuals being part of something, or it could be creating viable business models for rural areas, it could also help  transform and restore a local area as in the Levenmouth project, and it could be many more things!

I look forward to more fact-finding trips to sun-filled corners of Scotland in the coming weeks!